What’s that you say? You are undertaking the mythic journey of following your team to an away game against the Ball State Cardinals? Then you, my friend, are in for a treat. Do we have the pageantry of the Auburns and Alabamas? No. Do we have the coeds of the USCs and Arizona States? Unfortunately, no. Do we have the cultural explosion of a road game at Miami? Definitely not. You also don’t have excellent odds of ending up in a bathtub full of ice in a seedy motel missing a kidney. Life is all about trade offs.
So you’re venturing to Muncie and like any fan visiting a place for the first time, you head to the interwebs in search of a place to stay, some places to eat, what to expect, and what to do. And that, ladies and gents, is where your faithful team here at OTP comes into play. We’ve done the research and Lord knows drank and ate our way through Muncie so you don’t have to. Consider it a thank you gift in advance for the W your team gave us.
On today’s edition of the Visiting Fan’s Guide? Your Gameday Experience at Ball State University.
Not All Gamedays Are Created Equal
I have been fortunate in my lifetime to attend college football games at some pretty awesome places. Florida, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Notre Dame, Maryland, UVA, and of course, Kentucky and Ball State just to name a few. Anyone that has been to multiple locations will tell you that the experience at one is very different from the others, and comparing gameday experiences at any one place to any other is an exercise in futility. It’s essentially like comparing apples to bananas. Yes, they’re both fruits, but aside from that, every other thing about them is considerably different. A mindset with that understanding will behoove you greatly should your travels bring you to Muncie.
Like most schools of Ball State’s caliber and size, another fairly important intangible to keep in mind is that the gameday experience is directly proportionate to the success of the team in the given season. The season closer last year against Central Michigan in the midst of a 2-10 season was very different than the Western Michigan game a year earlier as the Cardinals went for 12-0. That is unfortunately, the breaks of the MidAmerican Conference football game, but it’s manageable if you know that going in. It’s economies of scale at its most basic, and the fact remains that the alumni support and local interest in a Ball State program that has been mediocre at best for the duration of its existence hasn’t reached the level of a BCS conference caliber school.
Some Rules to Live By
At some places, and I’m looking at you West Virginia, pretty much anything goes. That’s the extreme to the negative end of the spectrum, where destruction, extreme drunkenness, and general douchebaggery are quite prevalent. On the opposite end of that spectrum is the hoity toity south, where you find gents in ties, women in sundresses, and there is an air throughout of “We’re better than you… and we know it.” To be fair, every tailgate I’ve went to in the south has been a blast, but it is certainly nothing like what you’ll experience in Muncie.
The order of the day, or night depending on kick time, is casual. Pending the temperature, casual and warm. If it’s a sunny fall afternoon, cargo shorts and a polo and you’ll fit right in. The Cardinal fans are friendly, and if you have visiting team gear on, don’t expect too much ribbing. Perhaps an intoxicated student may say something, but for the most part, it’s a friendly lot of football fans that want everyone, including visitor’s to have a good time.
Planning on bringing your RV? Perfect. There’s parking for those and try and offer your neighbor some of your culinary treats. That’s a good way to make some friends, talk some football, and meet the opposition. Most folks with the financial wherewithal to purchase an RV are usually the right kind of fans to get to know. Planning on bringing your couch or a keg? Not so perfect. Those sorts of things are outlawed by the tailgating rules enforced by the University and the police. Yes, we have police patrol the lots. Some other rules to know and love:
- Tailgating lots open three hours prior to kickoff
- Alcohol consumption is allowed for those over 21 years of age
- No kegs or hard liquor permitted
- No indoor furniture of any kind permitted in the lots
- Drinks have to be in cans or paper or plastic cups. Glass bottles aren’t allowed
- No drinking games or drinking game apparatuses are allowed
- Tailgating lots are cleared 15 minutes prior to kickoff
Now, what if you aren’t a beer drinker? The fact they’ve built in the “Solo Cup Clause” as I like to refer to it above makes it easy to skirt the rules a bit. Keep your liquor out of sight, don’t act like a drunken fool, and the police that walk through the lot will have no reason to stop and pay you any attention. Act like an idiot and you can expect to meet one of the Indiana State Excise Police. Nice folks, I’m sure, but I would rather my gameday not include a visit from them.
Other PreGame Goodies
Aside from drinking in the lots with your crew, there’s some other things available for you to check out. There’s Tailgate Town with live radio broadcasts, there’s the Cardinal Walk where the team will disembark from their buses and walk into the stadium, and there’s other random things to check out like people’s tailgates. You’ll see a large RV near the stadium with “The Sled” written on it. Stop by and be a part of a great bunch of fans and BSU supporters. Tell them OTP sent you.
Before the actual kickoff you’ll want to get in your seats a bit early and witness a bit of the pregame marching band show. Ball State’s band, known as The Pride of MidAmerica is one of the best marching bands in the MAC if not the country. They’ve played professional sports events, numerous parades, and even Presidential Inaugurations. Check ‘em out and witness musical awesomeness.
The Actual Game Experience
Visiting fans at Scheumann Stadium will have a bird’s eye view of the student section as it is on the opposite side of the field. As the student section goes, so goes the atmosphere and energy of the stadium. You’ll notice some traditions there, like the key jingling on kickoffs or the “Chirp Chirp” on 3rd downs and key plays. Is it the Notre Dame finger “W”s or the fist pumps? Of course not. But for a MAC school, it’s pretty impressive. What we lack in national attention and stature we make up for in fun and energy.
Don’t expect a jumbotron or a fancy light show, it’s barebones basic, but there are things between quarters and at halftime for prizes and entertainment to keep your eyes on. Additionally, the Pride of MidAmerica takes the field at half to treat you with some great marching and music.
In terms of culinary treats, it’s standard stadium food and the lines are not long most times. I will warn you though that the same cannot be said for the bathrooms. If using the facilities is a need for you, plan your trip down and try and not go at peak restroom times like halftime or between quarters. You may be standing for a while.
Truthfully, the only thing you have to do at “The Scheu”, as we call it, is simply enjoy yourself, have a hot dog, and cheer for your team. Talk to people, don’t be a toolshed, and you’ll find your trip to Muncie and your time at the game to be better than you ever expected.